Paul Cayard and his new team Katusha surprised everyone – and himself – in the Bank Sarasin RC 44 Portoroz Cup match race series, dominating the event and winning the best of three final against Karol Jablonski's Organika. Katusha is the latest RC 44 (number 22), just out of the Pauger boatyard. The team is also brand new and had never sailed together under Cayard's leadership. No Way Back (Ray Davies & Pieter Heerema) finished third ahead of Islas Canarias Puerto Calero (Jose Maria Ponce), Artemis (Dean Barker) and Team Aqua (Cameron Appleton).
The day started with a “dead or alive” match between the local team Modri Gaj and Team Austria. At the helm of Modri Gaj, Gasper Vincec managed to close the door at the start, kicking the Austrians out and taking control of the race to win it.
The other semi-finals saw today's most spectacular matches, including an aggressive fight between Dean Barker's Artemis and Sébastien Col's Ceeref. Both teams arrived together at the top mark and engaged in an endless dial up. Stuck on windward, Seb Col tried to regain control of the situation by jibing the top mark. Both teams soon after arrived together – but on opposite tacks – by the arrival line. They luffed each other until they faced the wind, their spinnakers flapping in the wind and twisting around the headstays. Artemis got a penalty and actually benefited from it, pursuing its turn, untangling its spinnaker and crossing the line a few meters ahead of a very disappointed team Ceeref.
Five groups of two teams came out of the semi-finals, with Katusha and Organika on top, followed by Islas Canarias Puerto Calero and No Way Back.
Both Katusha and No Way Back managed to win their first match but then lost the second, hence maintaining the suspense. Cayard and Jablonski started the decisive race on split tacks, with Cayard going to the right and Jablonski forced to the left of the course. The first crossing confirmed that Cayard's choice was the right one: Katusha was comfortably leading the race and sailed to victory without being threatened.
No Way Back also had a fairly comfortable last race against the Spaniards, controlling the entire race to grab the third place of the podium.
The fleet regatta starts tomorrow. It promises to be intense: the teams that were usually in the middle of the pack are now at the top whilst the newcomers have proved how good they are. As for the favourites of the event, who haven't obtained the results that they wanted in the match race, they know what to do in the coming days…
Paul Cayard, helmsman, Katusha: “It is obviously a great day for our new team Katusha; we certainly didn't expect such a good result and it is a perfect way to start in this class. This victory is a tribute to the work done by the people who have prepared the boat over the past weeks. They have done it with a great attention to detail. We also adapted our sailing style to the fact that we are a new team, and avoided getting too involved in close match racing. When the situation allowed, we just did our route without always controlling the opposition. It is risky but it paid off well.”
Karol Jablonski, helmsman, Organika: “I am extremely happy, we are getting there and this second place is excellent for us. When I started with this team in Lanzarote, I knew that it would take some time. Cayard obviously did a great job; he positioned his boat well and managed to go to the most favourable places on the course. For sure, I am sad that we didn't win. But in a way it's good: it leaves us some margin for improvement ahead of the Gold Cup.”
Jose Maria Ponce, helmsman, Islas Canarias Puerto Calero: “This is the beginning of a new era for us. We have been fighting all along and all the matches have been very close. We have proved that we can beat the best teams; it is a great confidence boost for us.”
Mike Reardon, Modri Gaj: “I am delighted, this is great fun. Obviously, we are beginners in this Class and we are learning a lot. This morning, Paul Cayard gave us some advice and this proved very helpful today. He has been very good to us.”
Match-race, final results:
(Ranking, name of team, helmsman)
1) Team Katusha, Paul Cayard
2) Organika, Karol Jablonski
3) No Way Back, Ray Davies, Pieter Heerema
4) Puerto Calero Islas Canarias, José Maria Ponce
5) Artemis, Dean Barker
6) Team Aqua, Cameron Appleton
7) Ceeref, Sébastien Col
8) BMW ORACLE Racing, Russell Coutts
9) Team Sea Dubai, Markus Wieser
10) Modri Gaj, Gasper Vincec
11) Team Austria, Christian Binder
Photos: Copyright Ales Fevzer RC 44 Class